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Crews secure gas leak in Portola Valley

Traffic was limited for several hours Tuesday afternoon (May 6) near the intersection of Cervantes Road and Peak Lane in Portola Valley, where a paving crew accidentally hit a one-inch residential gas line at around 1:10 p.m. and broke it.

The gas leak, which was secured at about 2:30 p.m., led firefighters to issue a shelter-in-place alarm after a crew using an asphalt-grinding machine struck the line, said Battalion Chief Kevin Butler of the Woodside Fire Protection District.

The odor of natural gas was detectable, but the wind dispersed it, Mr. Butler said, adding that no one was injured nor was there a serious threat of injury during the 90 minutes that firefighters were on the scene.

The shelter-in-place order extended in a 100-foot perimeter around the leak, Mr. Butler said.

Firefighters arriving on the scene found themselves in a bind at first, he said. The grinding machine is the size of a small car and it was turned off and sitting directly above the leak. They could not risk a spark by restarting the machine, nor could they move it.

A PG&E crew excavated the areas on either side of the break, found the line and crimped it on the supply side to shut off the flow of gas, Mr. Butler said. The line fed gas to one home.

While paving crews did have maps of buried utilities and knew there was a gas line in the area, the map may have been out of date and not drawn to the necessary degree of precision, Mr. Butler said.

The gas line seemed unusually close to the surface, Mr. Butler said. A gas line 6 inches to 8 inches below the road is probably not according to code, he said. A depth of 18 inches to 24 inches seemed more reasonable, he said.

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